KENNEWICK, WA – It’s easy to understand why the 4,229 fans that left Wednesday’s game were feeling a little exhausted…5 lead changes and 13 combined goals will do that to people.
With less than three minutes left in regulation, Malte Strömwall and Mitch Topping scored 17 seconds apart, as the Tri-City Americans (17-6-0-0, 34 pts) rallied for a wild 7-6 win over the visiting Portland Winterhawks (15-9-1-1, 32 pts) at the Toyota Center. With the win, Tri-City improved to 9-2 on home ice this year and 4-0 vs. Portland in the 10-game season series. Meanwhile, the ‘Hawks have now dropped 2 of their last 3 games overall and have lost in 13 of their last 14 trips to Kennewick.
Aided by two power plays in the first period, the Winterhawks took it straight to the Americans in the first 20 minutes, outshooting their hosts 22 to 9. But, it took 18:19 of that first period before the ‘Hawks got on the board. On a partial breakaway, Sven Bartschi tipped a perfectly placed Ty Rattie pass, under Ty Rimmer’s pads, for the 1-0 lead.
Then, just 20 seconds into the second period, and playing with two-men in the box, Bartschi again dazzled as he won a race with Brendan Shinnimin, grabbed a fortunate bounce off the glass and fired one past Rimmer.
However, less than a minute later on that same 5-on-3 advantage, Shinnimin responded with a goal of his own to pull Tri-City back to within one.
With just over 6 minutes gone of the second period, Tri-City quickly surged into the lead behind a 28-second, two-goal burst. The first came off the stick of Connor Rankin, as he was the benefactor of a broken play in the slot that found him set up back door on Mac Carruth. Then, at the 6:54 mark, Justin Feser sent an innocent shot in from the left half wall, only to watch it elude Carruth and give Tri-City a 3-2 lead.
But, Rattie would retaliate with 2 quick markers of his own as Portland retook the lead. At the 8:03 mark of the second period, and playing 4-aside, Rattie and Bartschi were able to break out on a 2-on-1. Rattie kept the puck and faked Rimmer out with a forehand before switching to his backhand for the tally. Then, three minutes later, and on the power play, Rattie knocked in his own rebound to put the ‘Hawks up 4-3.
Penalties continued to catch-up with Portland in the second period, though, as Tri-City knotted the game off another 5-on-3 advantage. Just 1:11 after Rattie gave Portland the lead, Jordan Messier stuffed an Adam Hughesman rebound past Carruth to tie the game at 4.
By the end of the second, the teams had combined for 7 goals and 2 lead changes. Then, just 24 seconds into the third period, and still on the power play, the Americans made it 3 changes when Hughesman grabbed his team-leading 16th goal off a deflection in front of Carruth.
Just as they did in the second period, though, Portland responded with another 2-goal burst midway through the period, retaking the lead. First, at the 8:16 mark, defenseman Joe Morrow sent in a drive from the left point that glanced off Rimmer’s pads and trickled across the goal line. Then, three minutes later, Dillon Wagner was credited with his second goal of the season during a scramble in front of Rimmer. It appeared that Topping may have inadvertently pushed the puck across the goal line has he was attempting to help Rimmer secure the puck at the near post but, regardless, Portland had regained the lead again, this time at 6-5.
But, Tri-City found yet another answer, scoring twice with less than three minutes remaining in regulation. With 2:36 left in the third, and during a wild scrum in front of Carruth, Derek Ryckman kept whacking away at the puck, eventually forcing it free from the pile where it ended up on the stick of Strömwall. With Carruth still on the ice, Strömwall lifted a shot over the fallen netminder, tying the game at 6. Then, just 17 seconds later, Shinnimin fed Topping at the left point, who then fired a bullet over Carruth’s blocker for a 7-6 Tri-City lead.
Carruth was pulled a minute later for the extra attacker, but Rimmer and the Tri-City defense held strong to preserve the win.
Rimmer, who statistically had his worst game of the year, finished with 33 saves on 39 shots. It was the most shots he has faced since his 43-save shutout vs. Portland back on October 9 and his second highest total of the season. Yet, despite the lopsided goals against total, Rimmer improved to 11-3 on the year behind his 5th straight victory. Meanwhile, Carruth stopped 40 of the 47 shots he faced in the loss, both season-highs. It was Carruth’s first loss since October 29 in Kootenay and snapped his 7-game winning streak. Tri-City finished the night 3-for-8 on the power play, while Portland went 1-for-3 on the man-advantage.
After a practice day Thursday, the Americans will return to the ice for the first game of an East Division doubleheader weekend. First up, on Friday, November 25, the Swift Current Broncos (10-12-2-1) visit the Toyota Center for their only visit of the season. Game time is 7:05 p.m. The Broncos, who kicked off their U.S. Division swing with a 3-2 loss in Spokane, have won 3 of their last 4 games but have lost in their last two trips to Kennewick. Tri-City, meanwhile, has won 4 of their last 5 vs. Swift Current and 7 of their last 8 overall. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, including online at ticketmaster.com, the Toyota Center box office, or all Fred Meyer outlets. The game will also be broadcast live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 6:45 p.m.
Applebee’s 3 Stars:
1, Adam Hughesman, Tri-City
2, Sven Bartschi, Portland
3, Ty Rattie, Portland